The Babylonian Theodicy. By TAKAYOSHI OSHIMA. State Archives of Assyria Cuneiform Texts, vol. 9. Helsinki: THE NEO-ASSYRIAN TEXT CORPUS PROJECT, 2013. Pp. lxiii + 63. $39 (paper). [Distributed by Eisenbrauns, Winona Lake, Ind.]
Takayoshi Oshima, of the Friedrich-Schiller University in Jena, has given the field a valuable book that not only meets its goals as a learning tool for students of Akkadian, but will also stimulate discussion in a classroom setting.
The present volume may be seen as only one piece of Oshima's research program related to Mesopotamian wisdom texts. In the volume under review, Oshima alludes to his Babylonian Poems of Pious Sufferers: Ludlul Bel Nemeqi and the Babylonian Theodicy (ORA 14; Tubingen: Mohr Siebeck, 2014), in which he has now published new materials and re-collations. A comparison with W. G. Lambert's Babylonian Wisdom Literature shows that more than half a dozen new fragments are included. In short, the new material offers significant gains in the text of strophes XIX and XXI, as well as smaller advances elsewhere, e.g., strophes I and V. Oshima's edition covers (fully or partially) 272 of the composition's original 297 lines. Since a more thorough discussion of the new tablets appears in the monograph, this review will focus largely on the textbook and its introductory materials.
The SAACT series will be familiar to Assyriologists. It is rooted in the idea of giving students just moving beyond an introductory grammar some simplified resources as they gain the skills to transition to less-well-curated texts. In the case of the present volume, that means that the inventory of signs is limited to the 189 that are actually used in the text. It also includes a seven-page glossary of Akkadian terms that appear, as well as brief lists of the few logograms and proper names.
The cuneiform text itself, which covers just over six pages, is presented with an effort to represent the condition of the broken tablets, in which shaded areas indicate the lost sections. The cuneiform is represented in a standardized font, with hollow wedge heads representing signs that are restored rather than represented on an extant copy. The effect of the whole is utilitarian; although a hand-copy would certainly be more attractive, beginning readers of cuneiform may be grateful not to have to struggle with the vagaries and variant forms of real cuneiform texts. (Hand-copies and photographs are provided in the ORA monograph.)